Trixie Franklin had been at Nonnatus House getting on for six months, but to the young midwife it seemed like years. Trixie had not trained at a London based hospital, but much nearer home, she was a stranger in town.
After the death of her father, the bright lights of London had lured the newly qualified midwife to the nation's capital. For the first time Trixie felt she could finally start living her life for herself.
Her parents had encouraged her to take up nursing. The truth was, she had been a caregiver all her young life. Her father had suffered terribly from what they referred to in the Great War as shell shock. She knew it would be unfair to train to be a nurse, too far from home. Her mother still needed her daughter's support dealing with the horrors that tormented Trixie's father.
Following the loss of her husband, Mrs Franklin realized how much her only daughter had sacrificed for the family and much to Trixie's surprise encouraged her to spread her wings.
London had been one big fat disappointment. She loved the work, she was growing fonder of her mentor and the other nuns. Trixie had built up a good relationship with Sister Bernadette, but she could hardly ask her if she fancied accompanying her to a dance at the weekend.
The senior midwife Sister Evangelina, could be sharp but so could Trixie. The nun was never cruel or malicious, just particular. Unfortunately the subtle bullying and resentment from the older nurses, was starting to make Trixie doubt her decision to move to the city. She marvelled at how Sister Bernadette kept cool, calm and professional in all situations. Trixie thought she surely must know that she didn't always have the respect and support she was due from Trixie's fellow nurses. If she did, she never let on.
One particular Tuesday clinic had been - as Sister Evangelina always liked to put it - an afternoon of trials and tribu-bleedin'-lations. Sister Bernadette had been seconded to the London and without her understated but firm direction, the clinic had failed to function with its regular military precision. Patients were getting restless, having to wait longer than they were used to. Notes went missing and instruments had been mislaid.
One of the doctors was berating Sister Evangelina, which Trixie thought was incredibly brave. The younger midwife made herself busy. Sister Evangelina had already had a go at her earlier - for what? She wasn't quite sure. This had come not long after, one of the nurses had loudly apportioned blame for her own shortcomings on Nurse Franklin.
Trixie couldn't help but overhear from the kitchen that Sister Evangelina and the usually placid Dr Turner were now at loggerheads. Apparently over the ridiculous decision, according to the doctor, of not choosing to send one of the useless ones to the London. Instead of the only nurse that actually seems to know what she's doing!
Trixie smarted, this day couldn't end soon enough.
A furious Sister Evangelina stormed out of the kitchen and pushed a set of notes into Nurse Franklin's hands.
"Would you please go and assist Dr Turner, Nurse! If I have to deal with him much longer, we won't just be a nurse short!"
Trixie took the notes from her superior and followed Dr Turner behind one of the screens. She wasn't phased by the order. Dr Turner and that particular Sister, did tend to rub each other up the wrong way at times and if it was going to happen, it was definitely going to happen today. She had noticed Dr Turner always appeared most at ease when he worked with Sister Bernadette, but then so did most people. The young nun always seemed to provide the calm eye to Poplar's frequent storms. The doctor had always been pleasant and appreciative of Trixie's work, so she marched behind the screen with confidence.
She handed Dr Turner the notes she had been given. The doctor turned on the young midwife immediately. Trixie didn't fully comprehend what was being said, but she knew he was angry and venting his anger on her. For not the first time today, she was taking responsibility for someone else's mistake. She had inadvertently handed the doctor the wrong set of patient notes. Trixie tried to muster an apology, but finally things had gone just too far for the young midwife. She turned on her heels and fled the clinic.
Trixie found herself in the alley way that ran between All Saints' church and its parish hall. Her lithe frame shaking and tears threatening to fall. The doctor hadn't actually been that aggressive. Sister Evangelina had said much worse to her earlier. She wondered if it was the tone coming from a male voice that had upset her. It had been a while since she had heard an angry raised voice aimed at her, emanating from a man. Trixie clung to the wall of the parish hall, she now realized she was shaking with anger, directed at herself for her unguarded emotional response.
What would he think? What would they think? What would Sister Bernadette think when she found out? Sister Bernadette would never show such a lack of control in response to Dr Turner or anyone for that matter. Her thoughts were interrupted;
"Are you alright Nurse?" The voice was soft, controlled now, "It's been a difficult day, Nurse... erm, I didn't mean to raise my voice, Nurse.. er..yes, Nurse."
"Franklin, it's Nurse Franklin. I have been here 6 months, Dr Turner!" Trixie could have bitten off her tongue, but she was afraid it was so sharp she might cut herself. Trixie's embarrassment at being discovered, propelled her into the well used strategy of attack.
When a reply didn't come she figured he was waiting for an apology, she turned to face him. She realized he wasn't saying anything because he was trying not to laugh. Trixie was about to explode again when he suddenly asked her if she wanted a cigarette. Trixie would have sold her grandmother for a cigarette at that moment. Her cigarette case was in her handbag inside the clinic. She nodded.
Trixie had been a social smoker before coming to the East End. The perfected poise of lighting and holding a du Maurier taken from its signature red tin, was more of a fashion accessory than a habit. That had all changed in the last six months. She was smoking nearly a pack a day now, still nowhere near as much as Dr Turner, she hastened a guess.
She took the ugly old fashioned Henley from the cigarette case he offered her and accepted the light. There was something about this small act of kindness that finally seeped through Trixie's last shred of defiance and the dam finally broke. She hadn't been able to tell anyone how she was feeling. Not her mother, who was so proud of her. Not her mentor, who she looked up to and didn't want to disappoint.
She poured her heart out to the man who five minutes ago was the cause of her distress. Dr Turner stood beside her quietly puffing away, when she was done he refused the return of his now mascara stained hanky.
"You know what you need?" He said gesticulating his left index finger towards her. She shook her head, " You need! A bloody good night out!"
Trixie didn't quite know how to respond to this. Surely he was married. She had never met the wife, but she was more than certain there was a Mrs Turner. Yes, he was wearing a wedding ring. There was a son wasn't there? Tommy or something?
Trixie looked at the doctor again, she supposed he wasn't bad looking for his age, but he must be well into his 40's. What was he thinking? Honestly, the arrogance of some doctors. Trixie suddenly realized she was up a back alley with a man she believed had just propositioned her. Then why wasn't she trying to get away? Why was she not more ill at ease?
"Heavens to Mugatroyd! What on earth are you pair doing taking a cigarette break now? Of all the times!" Sister Evangelina was now boiling with rage.
"Nurse Franklin," the accent on her surname was not lost on Trixie, "Was taken unwell and I simply came out to see if she needed assistance."
Sister Evangelina had her head in her hands, "And does she?"
"Are you fit enough to continue Nurse Franklin, or do you need to return to Nonnatus?"
Trixie smiled, "I think I am recovered, thank you for your kind attention, Dr Turner."
The Sister raised her eyebrow in disbelief, "Well isn't that just marvellous news Nurse Franklin! Now can we all just get back to work?" She growled.
They stubbed out their cigarettes and Doctor Turner gave Trixie a sly wink before following a glowering nun back into the clinic.
Trixie looked at the makeup ruined hanky and wondered what the initial P embroidered in one corner might stand for.